OREGON: Debate Over Names-Based HIV Reporting Continues
Oregon health authorities Monday held the final public hearing on the debate over implementing a names-based reporting system, the Portland Oregonian reports. The system proposed by the Oregon Health Division would confidentially record the names of all persons testing positive for HIV and convert the names into a code within 90 days with the intent to "assure that infected people get medical care and counseling." But state HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations have been "vocal to the point of demonstrating" against the idea, saying that many people will refuse testing out of fear that their names may be revealed and arguing that disclosure of an HIV-positive status may "expos[e] them to discrimination, loss of jobs and rejection by their families and their community." Furthermore, non-U.S. citizens fear deportation should the Immigration and Naturalization Service be notified of their status. Advocates "suspect" that "naming is a first step toward the state gradually eliminating the option of anonymous testing." Historically, HIV-infected individuals were not opposed to having their names recorded, as they were "near death with infections" and "needed disability payments." However, "now a person could live five, 10, 15 years with HIV and not have AIDS," Alliance for Public Health Accountability spokesperson Marta Guembes said. Health division administrator Dr. Martin Wasserman responded that "fears of breach of confidentiality are unfounded because only four state employees have access to the computer with secure patient data, and that computer is behind locked doors." The names of individuals with AIDS have been confidentially recorded in Oregon since the early 1980s, but by 1997 the rate of new AIDS cases had slowed due to new antiretroviral therapies, prompting the CDC to recommend that all states expand disease reporting to include HIV reporting. Thirty-four states use names-based reporting, and six states use code-based reporting. Maine and Washington have similar names-based systems by which names are originally recorded and then coded into a unique identifier system. Wasserman will render a decision on the issue by the end of the year (Koglin, Portland Oregonian, 10/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.